Free Range on Food: Skirt steak, sticky toffee pudding, lentil soup, stocking your pantry and more

Mar 11, 2020

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! 

You may have read this, but we here at WaPoFood are all working from home, along with most of the newsroom, through the end of the month, so we have coronavirus on our minds -- and want to hear from you about what you're cooking/eating these days. We're particularly interested in any of your ideas for good ways to approach lunch and snacks when you're working from home. (I'm pretty sure I'm going to pack on some weight since I have access to my entire stocked pantry all day and will snack snack snack!)

We've been covering various aspects of this epidemic already, as you probably know, including Emily and Tim's guide to dining out, and Jane Black's piece asking notable chefs what they would keep in their pantry and make with it in case of a quarantine.

We also have delved into lots of other stories and recipes:

I write about a delightful man in Seattle, Reid Branson, who has eaten the same lentil soup every workday for 17 years, and offer the recipe, from the great Crescent Dragonwagon (who is joining us today!). I also spotlight a great spinach salad recipe from Bryant Terry's gorgeous new book, "Vegetable Kingdom."

Becky Krystal is busy as ever: She writes about her favorite sticky toffee pudding recipe, from DC's Rasika; a great spicy shakshuka; how to use your toaster oven as more of an oven than a toaster; and how to think about oil smoke points and why they matter.

Ali Slagle sings the praises of skirt steak for a quick weeknight dinner.

Ann Maloney is our Dinner in Minutes queen, of course, and she's got you covered with this souvlaki-style chicken and another option for dead-simple scallops, from Sam Sifton's new book.

Olga Massov writes about a beef-and-stout stew for St. Patrick's Day, and Ellie Krieger is Nourishing you with a Little Gem salad with avocado green goddess.

And, of course, we're here to talk about anything you'd like! 

Since Crescent will be with us, feel free to ask her anything veg-related, cause that's her jam! 

Crescent has graciously agreed to give away -- to our favorite chatter today -- a copy of her esteemed "Dairy Hollow House Cookbook," which preceded "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread," the latter of which is the source of the lentil soup recipe I featured that has now gone viral! So make your questions and comments good!

OK, let's do this.

A longtime family favorite cookbook is "Soup and Bread" by Older & Sherman, with the recipe we make the most being their Lemon Lentil that has many of the same ingredients, so it doesn't surprise me someone could eat this one daily for years- I make mine (with adaptations to make it thicker/stewier, heavier on spices, and now vegan) at least once a month. Looking forward to trying some of the differences from this soup into my next batch!

And I will look forward to hearing what you think. I really love the crunch of the whole coriander seeds in this. 

What differences do you see? between your old fave and this

I need to prepare a couple of breakfast casseroles/stratas to be cooked (by my husband) on a Saturday morning. Due to travel, I can't pre-make them either Friday or Saturday morning. They call for assembling and refrigerating overnight. Is it OK to assemble on Thursday night and (therefore) refrigerate for TWO nights?

I am officially here for lentil soup, but as a former bed-and-breakfast innkeeper, I can tell you, sure, you can fridge your strata for two days, fridged and covered of course. (P.S. try a strata made with stale cornbread crumbs sometime. Superb, esp with green chiles and served with pico de gallo).  

For anyone who can't leave their house... what would you mix up as a "quarantini"?

Given that we'll run out of fresh citrus soon and may stop going to the grocery stores for more, use it while you have it! After that, go to nice stirred drinks like Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Martinis, Vieux Carres. Chartreuse is thought to be a cure-all, but mostly it is a cure for sobriety, which I suppose is its own reward in these troubled times. Do not use hand sanitizer as a mixer, but feel free to use high-proof vodkas to disinfect the house.

I forgot to ask Brother Andrew. I've lived in the UK for years and discovered that the flour (plain and self raising) were different enough to make recipes not work. I resorted to importing my own flour and cornmeal. Given that the GABS was filmed in the same tent as GBBS, did the producers import the flour and other ingredients? Otherwise, it adds another, unexpected, variable to how baked goods turn out. Unless I know that the recipes are tested using US ingredients, I'm not willing to try any of the recipes from the show.

He told me that producers helped source much of the ingredients, though sometimes he would get things he really wanted. I doubt they were importing flour, though I suspect they could source regular flour for them. I haven't found recipes that failed because of what you're saying (and I tested a whole bunch from the British series a few years back). Usually their recipes will specify self-raising flour, which to us is just all-purpose with some extra baking powder.

Brother Andrew

ARTICLE: Meet the friar who combined flour and faith to win the ‘Great American Baking Show’

I often find significant time underestimates in recipes. For novice or busy cooks, this is intimidating and frustrating. An example, not to pick on the Post (lots of cookbooks have the same issue), was the recipe for cauliflower cheese soup in the Feb. 26 Food Section. This recipe claims itself to be last-minute-friendly, taking only 25 minutes. A quick inspection of the ingredient list's necessary prep activities (15 minutes for an efficient cook) and the combined total of the cooking steps (32-38 minutes with no hiccups) reveals this to be a practical impossibility. The upshot of this for unconfident cooks is that they are likely to feel inadequate or overwhelmed. Many of our friends don't cook meals because they "don't know where to start" or "don't have that much free time." Recipes like these just reinforce those fears.

Thanks for this -- yes, we're trying to watch for time estimates, and will fix this one!

the recipe in today’s paper foe stew with Guinness reminds me of an even easier one from Elizabeth David’s book on English cooking, called Sussex Steak. Flour a piece of chuck, put it into a casserole that’s not much wider than the meat. Slice an onion over it. Pour in equal amounts of Guinness and port - inexpensive port- or hearty red wine, to just about cover the meat. Add 2 tbl of red wine vinegar , and salt/ pepper to taste. Cover and bake at 300 for about 3 hours, until the meat is tender. (Make sure the cover’s tight - if not, use foil as well.). Even better made a day or two in advance. I make this a couple of times in the winter, with mashed potatoes.

I am here primarily re lentil soup, but on the subject of cooking with Guinness, thought you might enjoy this recipe for Guinness stout cake

Anything by Elizabeth David is amazing in my book! Also, love more stew content! I'll have to check it out. Thanks so much for sharing!

Any tips for grating ginger so that most of it doesn't just stay stuck to my box grater?

Freeze it and use a Microplane zester!

I am cooking a birthday dinner for my sister-in-law this week and she is avoiding gluten and dairy so a cake is out. Any suggestions for a dessert? I have some Meyer lemons that would like to be part of the party and all I'm coming up with for an idea is granita/sorbet, or some fresh fruit.

Ooh! How about a beautiful pavlova topped with olive oil Meyer lemon curd, coconut whipped cream and berries?

Simple Customizable Pavlova

RECIPE: Simple Customizable Pavlova

Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil Curd

RECIPE: Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil Curd

Read the "expose'" of caramelized onions in and take a lesson from it!

Oh, don't worry, we know all about that one. That was a pet peeve of mine for long before Slate wrote about it. The OP is really talking about overall time estimates in recipes, but yes, the upshot of this for anyone who didn't read it is that too many recipes say you can "caramelize" onions in 15-20 minutes or whatever, when it really takes upwards of an hour.

I was just going to say - in 20 minutes? Always feel like I'm doing something wrong. Thanks to the chatter who commented - will read the expose.

Do you have a short list of long-lasting, versatile staples and a handful of recipes we can make if we're quarantined at home? In the 2-week-quarantine scenario, we're worried we'll get tired of PB&J and don't want to spend all our money ordering out for food. To make it more difficult for you(!), with the exception of eggs and cheese, we're vegetarian.

I'm hoping we can continue to tackle this topic, as we're all now working from home for the next few weeks (as a social distancing precaution, not due to exposure).

First, did you see this story we did? 

coronavirus pantry

ARTICLE: Here’s how Padma Lakshmi and other expert cooks say you should stock your pantry for a coronavirus quarantine

I echo a lot what's in that piece. I've got enough dried beans to last me a while (not as much as Joe...), which will go into things like quesadillas, burritos and black bean burgers. I always have pasta, of course, and there's some pesto and tomato sauce in the freezer. Definitely eggs for omelets/breakfast sandwiches/frittata. Noodles -- I can see myself making Matt's tahini noodles very soon. Rice (fried rice, keep eggs and frozen veg around). All my usual condiments. Baking staples, as I can get mileage out of things like pancakes and biscuits for meals too. Oatmeal, as that's a staple, too. And some of my frozen favorites from Trader Joe's (masala burgers, latkes, naan, etc.). Canned tomatoes. And yes, cheese, pickled things, nuts and dried fruit because it's easy for me to make a meal out of a cheese plate. Lots of ways to go here.

And folks, feel free to share your staples here. We are definitely all in this together.

Beans, grains and shelf-stable vegetables (potatoes, squash, onions, garlic) are your friends! Also frozen vegetables. I've got a ton of masa in my pantry, too, so just like Hugo Ortega said in that piece, I'll be using it!

A "quarantini". OMG. As a cocktail and language lover, I must now come up with a cocktail worthy of this name. Thanks, OP.

Parade Magazine printed Mary Berry's Chocolate & Orange Mousse cake recipe last Sunday but it only specified "dark chocolate" -- didn't say sweetened or unsweetened. Should I go for unsweetened Ghirardelli?

Nope! Recipes will specify if they want unsweetened. Dark means something in the bittersweet or semisweet region, I'd say above 60 percent cacao.

Kudos to Olga for the beef and stout stew - which I'm having right now for lunch! Marinating the beef in the stout and then adding/reducing it in the pot gave some depth of flavor that's not usually in beef stews. And as the recipe invited, I freelanced a little and added some potatoes that I had on hand, although next time I will probably use parsnips or turnips for a flavor counterpoint that potatoes don't have. Yum!

I am so glad to hear the stew was such a hit! We're having leftover stew for lunch here, too! So will toast you from our home kitchen! And agreed: the amount of flavor is just shockingly good here. I didn't expect to be blown away by this as much as I was! Here's to humble ingredients!

I have your Bean by Bean and Joe's Cool Beans out from the library and sitting side by side as I compare and contrast while deciding on a purchase. This is tough. I could eat lentil soup every day of the week and twice on Sunday, and Joe's borlotti beans require mail-order purchase (doesn't seem to be available in Howard County MD), but...I need a bean cookbook to justify my new Instant Pot.

Joe and I are kind of a mutual admiration society when it comes to both each other and beans (especially Steve Sando's luscious Rancho Gordo beans... I just fixed a pot of RG Christmas limas yesterdays). Delighted to help you justify your Instapot!


It's true: Crescent's book was a huge inspiration to me! And y'all know how I feel about Rancho Gordo.

On those borlotti beans, keep in mind they're also called cranberry! Do you have a Mom's near you? I see dried cranberry beans there by Bob's Red Mill. 

They're always so far off (unless you have a sous chef who has prepped everything for you) I don't even bother with them. But after I've made a recipe once, I make note of the actual start to finish time it took so I'll know when I make it again.

My daughter made Christmas cookies with a quart bottle of golden syrup and then "forgot" it at my house when she went back to Philadelphia. I have about 3/4 of it left--any ideas for using up a large quantity in a recipe? I will probably have to take it somewhere since I'm the only one in the house, so a crowd-sized recipe would be okay, too. Thanks!

I love golden syrup! Honestly, I could eat it by the spoon. Also great in oatmeal. 

Here are a few recipes!

Blueberry and Lemon-Cream Icebox Cake

RECIPE: Blueberry and Lemon-Cream Icebox Cake

Brandy Snaps

RECIPE: Brandy Snaps

Perfect Pecan Pie

RECIPE: Perfect Pecan Pie

I have two essentially identical recipes for soda bread: same amounts of flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, buttermilk, and egg. But one of them also calls for a half stick of butter (as well as currants, but I figure that's incidental). How will the end results differ? I'm really interested generally in how slight changes in ingredients affect a recipe--but I've also never made either recipe before and don't know how to choose one...

The one with butter will be more tender! And might rise a bit more.

We have a volunteer patch by our garage (apparently they like the lime in the concrete foundation) but it produces very irregularly. I go out every morning to break off one or two but haven't yet found a method of cooknig them satisfactorily -- getting out the steamer for two spears is a lot of trouble, nuking them doesn't work because of the small volume, or at least I can't figure it out. What to do? Chop and saute?

I would probably go with slice-on-an-angle and saute. When I lived in Vermont I started an asparagus patch and of course it takes three or four years before you get a major harvest. So I did stir-fries at first, and I think once did an omelet with morels, ramps, my couple of measly asparagus spears, and fiddleheads --- all about the same time. 

Longtime vegetarian here: Pasta dishes. All sorts of homemade soups. Grilled cheese and canned tomato soup (childhood comfort food).

I made the cookies, and they spread and were very crisp, overdone. I couldn't have flattened them. I used Silpat mats rather than parchment paper. I used gluten flour rather than AP. Could either of those things have made the difference?

Yes on both, sorry! Especially on butter-reliant drop cookies, Silpats are the pits. The do cause cookies to spread too much. I only use paper in those types of circumstances. And, definitely, the flour swap-out also could have affected how well the cookies held their shape.

Granola Cookies

RECIPE: Granola Cookies

Why are cooking times mostly underestimated? Baking - at least WaPo recipes - seem accurate - some cookbooks not so much. Speaking just for myself, I'm fine if a recipe says, "caramelizing takes and hour." I can multi-task. I do appreciate recipes that say, "don't walk away." Anyone else feel that way. WaPo team, not complaining about you.

I agree w/the earlier poster -- I'm a competent home cook & I typically find time estimates in recipes wildly optimistic, even though I do a mise en place. Perhaps I am an exceptionally slow chopper? I don't let it discourage me though -- I just scan the recipe & factor in a more realistic timeframe.

A contingent of Irish friends arrived last week, and we hit all of the tourist spots, including a private tour of the capitol and had lunch n the Congressional. So far, so good. We probably drank enough to stave off infections. Thought some chatters might be interested. The Irish LOVED the Morning Glory Oatmeal. Hearing "lovely, lovely, so lovely," in a sweet Irish brogue was lovely. They loved corn bread, BBQ ribs and fried chicken sandwiches. Had to make sure they got boxes of Aunt Jemima pancake mix to take home.

Ah, yes, I remember you from the other week! Glad they liked the oatmeal. Thanks for following up.

Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal

RECIPE: Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal

There is a Mom's! Getting on the phone now. Thanks! but now I am in the throes of indecision again...


I just wanted to say how nice it is to see Crescent Dragonwagon joining you. I used to make her chilaquiles zona rosa all the time and now that I've been reminded of how good that dish is, I'll have to make them again soon!

Thank you! I am happy to be here. Those Zona Rosas --- they are one I go back to over and over.

Google recipes for British flapjacks, which are completely different than our pancakes. They're like chewy bar cookies made with golden syrup and oatmeal. Yummy!

Right! I think one of my Mary Berry books has a recipe for that.

But which cookbook to buy now, and which to put on my Christmas list?

You can't make us choose. This is your cross to bear.

How Lenten. When I really should be fasting and abstaining.

Boil briefly (no need to use a steamer) just until they turn bright green, plunge into cold water, then place in a freezer storage bag and freeze. Repeat each time you pick, until you've accumulated enough for a meal.

I read last week's chat too late to participate but wanted to add three of my favorites to the list: Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce, Arugula Soup, and Chocolate-Pear Spread. Thanks for these and many others!

Thanks! Big fan of that pumpkin pasta too!

Do lentils cause gastric distress in some people like beans do?

They are one of the legumes lower in oligosachyrides (the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence), which I assume is what you mean by gastric distress) than most beans, so the answer is a qualified no. The other qualification: if the beans are relatively fresh. Any legume that has been sitting on your shelf for four or five years will not cook up nicely and creamily, and will be harder to digest and less pleasant all around.

Thank you for the lovely article. For the past few months I have been trying to figure out something delicious and healthy that I could eat everyday for lunch at work. I find keeping things simple makes me less overwhelmed by shopping and cooking. When I saw the recipe I immediately felt like I found what I've been searching for. I can't wait to try this recipe this weekend.

I am so delighted that this soup has found its way into your life, and hope it pleases you mightily. 

Reid is the quietest most unpretentious guy in the world, but I know he would be tickled too. And pleased that there's a fellow "keep it simple" cook out there.


Typically takes me 45-60 minutes to caramelize a sauté pan full of sliced onions. My suspicion is that on cooking shows they use commercial stoves, which appear to have much higher flames than a home kitchen range.

That's not it -- because caramelizing requires slow, not high. You can't speed it up, really.

for the OP asking about a party dessert. I was in a similar situation last year for a birthday as well. Made an olive oil cake (with gluten-free flour) and frosted it with coconut whip cream, topped with fruit it was very lovely.

My Asian neighbor gave me a tool - it's kind of a long spatula. Wooden handle, long metal stem leading to an almost shovel-looking base with slightly raised sides. Any ideas?

Sounds like a wok spatula.

Canned tomatoes, use by date 2014, not dented, no swelling - ok to eat?

I dunno... I take expiration dates with a grain of salt in many cases but 6 years gives me pause.

When baking, I am careful to measure everything, and follow recipes. But, when cooking most other things, I rarely follow recipes, or just use them for general ideas. I just throw together what seems to go together, is the best way I can describe it. This annoys my friends who don't cook this way, but, I'm not sure I could change if I wanted to. Are you all recipe followers, or free-rangers (sorry, couldn't resist) when it comes to cooking?

When cooking at home for myself, I'm like you --- "free-range" except for baking. 

But when developing a recipe for publication I measure every ingredient, and test it as measured... part of what makes doing a cookbook or even blog post much more work than just getting in the kitchen and freestyling according to mood and ingredients on hand. 

Exactly. When I develop recipes, I usually do one and then the other: To be creative, I freestyle, then I try to remember everything and write it all down. Then I try to make it again with my own notes.

And too many cookbooks say that you can turn butter into ghee in ten minutes, whereas I have never found it possible in under 25 minutes, and usually half an hour.

I've tried most recipes recommended by chatters with success. I'm so grateful that you don't blather on about how you altered the recipe, so it's not close to the original recipe.

We're having cheese and bread for appetizers and corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots for dinner. What would you recommend as a light dessert? I know it's not technically necessary, but I always enjoy a bite of something sweet to end the meal. I thought about fruit, but that doesn't seem very Irish-American.

This is definitely NOT a light dessert, but my Guinness Stout Chocolate Cake... it's very, very, very good.

Is that a thing? Over the last year or so I've been deliberately using up and reducing the amount of food in my kitchen. I try to eat mostly fresh food (I get a weekly produce delivery) and I buy dairy, meat, and pantry/other items as needed, instead of stockpiling them. It's helped me reduce food waste, use up things before they go bad, and plan better around the ingredients I already have. It's just me so I don't really see the point of having tons of stuff! But I've never heard of anyone else doing this. Every other single person fridge I've seen is just as jam-packed as a family fridge!

I have a friend you would get along with splendidly. He's single, and his fridge (and entire apartment) is VERY minimal. I'm jealous!

I'm mortified -- I bought a bag of Rancho Gordo borlotti beans, and overcooked them! They are now mostly in the freezer, in cooking water, but what's my best next move?

Oh, I be they're still delicious, even if softer than you had planned. I mean, the obvious move is to puree them into soup or dip!

...more than one pan of caramelizing onions, one of which was started half an hour before the cameras started rolling.

Ye olde swap-out!

"I made your Spinach Golden Syrup Pancakes but I used leeks instead of spinach, olive oil instead of syrup, and chili powder in place of flour. Terrible! I don't know why you'd ever recommend this. I'm canceling my Post subscription"

Welcome to our world!

Maybe Angel Food or chiffon cake (optionally with a little fresh fruit)?

We bakers measure everything, because of the nature of baking. I'm awed by people who can just throw things together for a meal, which means my cooking is very slow - mise en place, etc. I wish I could be more of a cook. In my defense, growing I was always relegated to making dessert Yes, we ate dessert every night - can you imagine?

A couple of quarts of shelf stable milk. If you're on quarantine and the milk runs low it's good (well, ok) for your cereal/coffee/tea. I bought on the assumption that the power wouldn't go out (so ingredients for freezable soups/stews) but I might not be able to go to the Giant.

Good thought!

Joe, I've got some in the cupboard from a farmers market - care to share your favorite recipe?

This pasta dish is stellar, IIDSSM.


Heck, in Pasta e Fagioli ca. 1/3 of the beans have to be puréed to thicken the soup. So you're already one step ahead!


If you're having corned beef, you might as well have apple pie for dessert.

as virus fears abound, is it enough to rinse fruits and veggies as usual, or should we be soaking them in some sort of concoction to kill any contagious cooties they might have?

Here's a helpful piece from the LA Times. Bottom line, no, the thinking now is that as long as you wash your produce the same way you always do (after all, we rely on it to get rid of other foodborne illnesses), you're fine. Prepared foods and those shopping carts, though, that's another issue.

washing produce

ARTICLE: Yes, you need to wash your produce. Here’s how.

I'm excited to make Ann's scallop recipe, but I don't think I've ever seen dry packed scallops recently, not that I've been looking. Anyone knows where to find them in NoVA?

Hmm, chatters, any help here?

I've been making the coconut "bacon" from this recipe for a few years and love it, but I finally made the entire recipe last week It is soooo delicious! The dressing is the bomb---in my heart I am a vegan (but not in practice) and am trying to eat vegan more often than not and this recipe hits the spot. Even my texture-sensitive young adult child loved the salad. (Well maybe not the kale!) The only think I'd offer is that I think it would be fine to leave the kale raw--blanching it added some extra moisture to the salad. (I love raw kale so am biased.) Thank you!

So glad you liked it!

Asparagus and Kale Caesar Salad

Why on earth would you suggest something that "is definitely NOT a light dessert"? (No, I'm not the OP, but I'd be miffed if one of my queries were answered so cavalierly).

Testy, testy, testy! Slow your roll, and realize we're all just here providing a service to readers.

Thanks Joe. Is it used for lifting things out of the wok?

For stir-frying -- it helps you toss and keep everything moving while you're wokking!

Greetings Free Rangers! Love all that you do! Loved the recent Tomatoes article and tried the Baked Tomatoes, Shrimp and Chickpeas With Feta and Bread Crumbs last week. Had to substitute cooked chicken for shrimp since hubby now seems to have shrimp allergy (boohoo!). Since we are two, I split the recipe into two pyrex dishes and had one that evening. And it was good. On return from a weekend away, we reheated Part Deux and served it over a little pasta. OMG!!! It was so delish!! The flavors melded and concentrated. Not a gram remained on either plate. Definitely going on The Rotation. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You asked recently about favorite WaPo recipes: I still fall back frequently on Alison Swope's Chicken Braised with Olives and Dates along with her Barley Risotto. From 2007. Just fabulous.

Baked Tomatoes, Shrimp and Chickpeas With Feta and Bread Crumbs

RECIPE: Baked Tomatoes, Shrimp and Chickpeas With Feta and Bread Crumbs

Thanks for the reports!

I confess, I've relied on chicken nuggets, pizza and those types of meals for too long when my husband isn't around to cook. And, typically he's working late, so he isn't cooking! I hate (HATE!) cooking, perhaps because I'm worn out every day and it's just another thing to do. But, I am mad at myself for not doing more. When I try to think of "healthier" recipes to cook that our kids (2 and 4) will actually eat, I feel defeated. It seems any recipe they'd like is basically as bad as chicken nuggets. At least with nuggets I get them to eat broccoli (which they love). I only have one tried and true recipe I repeat - couscous, chicken sausage, zucchini, tomato, broccoli, spinach, mushroom - but I'm pretty sure they're tired of it. Basically, please help me figure out some semi-healthy, very easy recipes I can make. I appreciate any and all tips!!! Thank you.

I feel you. So much. As a tired mom and parent to very picky eater. Honestly, it's a struggle, and every kid is different. I can't say I have succeeded much. We are definitely stuck in a 2 or 3 dish rotation for my son. I just make sure he eats a lot of fruit and do what I can for dinner. Black bean quesadillas, black bean burritos, pasta with kale pesto, french toast, those are our stand-bys. And sides of little tomatoes and sometimes broccoli.

Read this. You'll feel better and get a good laugh.

picky eaters

ARTICLE: As a cookbook writer, I just knew my children would be good eaters. Then they were born.

Hi Rangers, I appreciated your article on dining out, but thought that it might have been a little too fast and loose regarding those workers who have to come in while sick or otherwise lose their jobs. As a pregnant diabetic (what a two-fer!), I'm extremely hesitant to even order from establishments at this point, but also feel a little bit like I'm taking crazy pills. Have you heard from any local places that are offering paid sick leave to their employees, so that I can at least propose options when family wants to dine out or order in? I'm grateful for your thoughts on the matter!

Paid sick leave for restaurant workers is a serious subject in the era of coronavirus. Historically, hourly cooks and servers have not been paid when taking a sick day. So they worked when ill, not ideal now, or ever.


But a few years ago, the D.C. Council passed a law that requires all employers, large and small, to provide paid sick leave for workers. The amount per year varies by the size of the company. But, by law, D.C. restaurants should offer the benefit to their workers, though employees have to earn the days by working a required number of hours.


Does that mean workers are actually reaping these benefits? Well, I'd say it's a safe bet that some (many?) restaurant workers don't even know they have paid sick leave benefits in DC.


I haven't surveyed restaurateurs on whether they actually provide sick leave. But I have been trading emails with Danny Meyer's team. His Union Square Hospitality Group offers paid sick leave. Meyer recently opened Maialino Mare in the Navy Yard, so that's at least one safe space.


Rangers, do you know of other places?


Review: Tom Sietsema's preview Maialino Mare

I'm disappointed that you'd feature a peanut butter so full of sugar for your recommended pantry stocking-up. At least make it Skippy if not a peanuts-only brand.

It was just a photo. C'mon. People should read labels, right, and make their own decisions based on what they like/want/need?

As we about our days, stocking up. Please remember to add some extras to donate to food banks. Remember how it was when the federal government shut down and folks didn't get a paycheck and needed food? If you can donate a few cans to a food bank, then those whose jobs will slow down or jobs cease to exist have a helping hand pulling them up. Thanks!

Thank you for this!

Ugghhhh I hope this article is helpful to many people who don't cook/eat out a lot, but I'm a habitual pantry/freezer 'over stocker' who spends each Jan/Feb trying to eat down the larder to fix what I consider a bad habit. It inevitably creeps back up by the next winter, so the cycle continues. As it's early March, my pantry and fridge are at (for me) record lows (ie. it's got staples, but I do need a weekly grocery run), which I'd been really proud about til this article. Now I'm very torn between going out and restocking, and staying the path. I know that it's within the realm of possibility that a lockdown or quarantine of some sort might happen, but realistically- does my house need to have two weeks worth of food in it *now*?? As with all the covid stuff, I feel like I'm split btw overreacting and underreacting and have no idea which is the right path. How is it only wednesday this week has been so long

I never let us run low on: coffee ( I have 5 cans in my pantry), beer & wine, cat litter and cat food. We have plenty of canned goods, dried grains and pasta, and of course toilet paper. But coffee is #1.


I never had lentils my entire life until recently (I'm over 50) and I am really trying to make up for lost time. I just love them. I will definitely be making this soup on Sunday but maybe a smaller batch.

Oh, even though you are late to the lentil party, I'm glad you have joined in.

I will say lentils (and all legumes) freeze beautifully, so you could make a big batch. I love having cooked beasns as well as a few finished bean dishes in the freezer.

I would just leave out the potatoes and butternut squash from the big batch and add them to what you'll east on the spot, pre-freezing --- their texture changes a bit, and gets mushy, when frozen and thawed. 

The prices for hing are all over the place. Should I choose by price? I am wary of even having it in the house (odor), so want to make sure I make a worthwhile purchase. Tx!

First, on price: in my experience, makes no diff. The least expensive Asafoetida comes from Indian grocery stores, in my experience. I always buy the tiniest jar. I store it at home inside another, larger jar, with a tight screw-on lid. 

perhaps Cuarenta y Tres, aka Licor 43 Spanish liqueur?

I'm not sick, so I'm making sure to buy and eat tons of fresh food. I won't be going out or shopping if I do get symptoms (introverts FTW), which is fine. I've got a packed freezer and pantry. But I imagine that I'm going to really start craving some fruits and veggies by the end of the first week of quarantine...

The vegetarian did not say what kind of stuff they typically like to cook, but I laughed because I actually got pb&j in case I get sick of all the stuff I usually make--soups, stews, curries, etc. In addition to your great list, some coconut milk and curry paste would be nice. Every time I have been to the store the last few weeks, I have just picked up a few extra things such as canned beans, pasta, etc., so it does not seem like an insurmountable task to deal with it all in a tiny kitchen. I always have dried beans and grains on hand so we'd never starve.

I bought some tuna the other week, and was looking in my cupboards, just to see what was there, and ended up making your farro, tuna, and chickpea salad already! So, so good! (And the leftover parsley is holding up beautifully standing in a glass of water...)

I'd actually welcome being quarantined for a couple weeks, it would force me to cook my way through my pantry, and clear things out. We were going to go out to a local Hawaiian restaurant next weekend, for a family birthday, but, decided, since my mom is 92, that it would be prudent to keep the celebration at home for now. I'll cook a birthday lunch at home, and am looking for vegetarian St. Patrick's day and Hawaiian ideas. I'm the only one in my family that likes coconut (I know, they're all weird), but, we love pineapple.

If you can't say something nice . . .

That idea seems to have died with my grandmother.

Just finished the leftovers, which reheated beautifully although the crumb topping wasn't so crisp. We found the chick-peas a bit crisp, though, and think we'll use cannellinni or a creamier bean next time. But there will be a next time! I'm the one who asked about using shrimp stock in it last week, and I did substitute a cup of the stock for a cup of the tomato juices.

This time of year you see a lot of corned beef recipes, even though it's not really a thing in Ireland. I loved it, though, before I went vegetarian. Are there some vegetarian recipes that use the same flavor profile, with or without faux meats?

I have been a vegetarian for the past 40-some years, and though I can make a dead-ringer non-beef beef stew (including a sauerbraten I once won $25 on --- a friend swore I couldn't make a v-version that was "not just good but the same" and foolishly bet me) I have never found what I consider a good corned beef sub, because of the very particular texture of corned beef.

I usually do my V St Patricks day with potato soup (with Irish red ale) and sauteed cabbage and carrots. I will be posting both my vegetarian and vegan potato soups at this weekend.

Since your kids like chicken anyhow, how about buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts? Either pound them thin or slice them in half (i.e., butterflying), then dredge lightly in flour, sauté in oil or butter, and serve with S&P or fresh lemon juice. Very quick.

The pork chop with mustard-lemon-cream sauce you recently posted is absolutely amazing; I made it two nights in a row, and it is now part of our regular menu rotation. I've become somewhat obsessed with it, and have shared it with everyone I know, and now they are making it multiple nights in a row, too. We've made it with chicken, too. It's great with rice or mashed potatoes. (Most of us have skipped the cabbage and onions, sorry.) It's the sauce that is magical here. At any rate, thank you thank you thank you!

Ann is en route to our photo shoot, but she would be thrilled to hear that!

Pork and Cabbage with Mustard Cream Sauce

RECIPE: Pork and Cabbage with Mustard Cream Sauce

1) I'm trying to cook from my freezer so I can replace it with new stuff. Among the things I found was about a pound of sweet cherries from our CSA/orchard last summer. What on earth do I do with them to maximize their deliciousness? 2) How's the lentil soup freeze? My picky eaters probably won't eat much of it [but we're working on it and they're getting more adventurous!] I think they'll try it if I separate out the chunks and the broth (which they'll do separately) and don't give them greens.

The lentil and aromatics component of the lentil soup (and all bean soups) freeze beautifully, but don't add the potatoes and butternut squash until you are going to eat it... these vegetables don't freeze well (on a cellular levl, they break down in the freezing/thawing process. Commercially frozen potatoes have speacial treatment to avoid this). 

It's New York Jewish, substituted by Irish immigrants when they couldn't find or afford the bacon they were used to back home. Just sayin.

If you're checking your recipe timings to ensure you're catching the full prep and cook time, you might also want to help out newbies by pulling together an equipment list to go with the ingredient list. When I was creating a recipe book for my partner (a non-cook), I put that up top with the ingredient list so that he wasn't caught off guard halfway through searching for the bowl or measuring tools he needed. I think a lot of books miss how much having the right equipment ready is just as much a part of the recipe as the ingredients.

we have lots of coffee (ProDomo Dallmyer sale) so I made sure we have the filters. Also lots of tea bags for the Matcha drinking kid. We make a lot of snacks--so flour, oatmeal, sugar, eggs, fat plus popcorn kernels,

Love this idea! May I suggest a combination of at least any two alcohols ( not wine or beer) you happen to still have on hand, shaken, not stirred, served at a distance of at least 3 feet from anyone else but still toasting to their health!

Your digestive system is a huge part of your immune system. Think about it. You eat it and the food immediately gets dumped into a tub of acid. Now, there are some viruses that can survive that environment, but not all of them. When everyone tells you not to touch your face with hands that haven't been washed, they are really talking about rubbing your eyes and (sorry) sticking your finger up your nose (plus rubbing around the outside). Completely convinced after I took that class that the reason my allergies meant I was getting sick all the time as a kid was that I was just rubbing my eyes and poking at my nose more.

Tip your delivery person really, really well, peeps! They're putting themselves out there to get food to you when you're reluctant to go get it yourself, or you're sick at home and your delivery person is hoping not to catch anything -- including from you!

Very true, and kind of you to say it. 

What recommendations do you have for stocking vegetables? I typically use fresh and keep some frozen on hand. But our freezer space is a bit sparse, so I am trying to think ahead, both for the current pandemic and for future "be prepared" behaviors in a changing world. Can't quite bring myself to canned broccoli, but are other canned goods worthwhile (beyond shelled beans and tomatoes)?

Cabbage stores really well. Also cauliflower, broccoli (to a lesser extent), carrots, beets. Sturdy greens, you could blanch and refrigerate for a week or two. Chatters, any other thoughts on these?

We're all looking for solace since Hank's chat is ending and it's where we usually keep the snark

Mix into yogurt, or homemade ice cream? (Or make an ice cream topping).

One thing I am dreading about any possible impending quarantine is lack of fresh fruit and veggies to cook with. I'm super spoiled and have something fresh almost every meal. Any suggestions for fruit and veg that have long self/fridge lives and any ideas to prolong freshness?

I mentioned a few in a previous answer, but you should also look for Fresh Paper, which does indeed prolong freshness! And make sure you store things right

Chicken, beef, vegetable broth. I was just wondering - no idea why.

Pretty sure there are pork broths out there, especially in Asian soups and I've also seen it in Mexican cooking. Maybe other chatters have seen it, too?

Regular stick butter seems to go bad in my refrigerator even before I peel back the paper, while butter in a tub -- even whipped butter -- doesn't have that problem. I've tried keeping stick butter in a plastic container (those Pyrex knock-offs we now ue for storage, microwaving etc) and even so, it doesn't last. So I'm wondering about those devices that let you store butter at room temp on a countertop, submerged in water, for several days. Or do you have another suggestion for preventing it from going bad so quickly in the fridge?

I haven't had this problem -- I wonder if your fridge temperature is off? Keep in mind, you can always freezer butter! Defrosts very well.

Home-grown and canned foods: tomato sauce, peaches, applesauce. In the freezer, homegrown green beans, cut corn, greens, blueberries. Also homemade preserves.

After Corned Beef and Cabbage -- how about teeny tiny ice cream sandwiches -- divide an oreo in two or use two of your favorite small cookie and put a teaspoon or so of pistachio ice cream in between.

Vegetable stew? (Basically make an Irish stew without meat). Or boiled cabbage and potatoes.

Crescent here, and though officially lentil soup is my wheelhouse on this free-range visit, I am such a soup-centric person I often do an Irish Potato Soup with red ale. Have done both vegetarian (with a lot of dairy) and a really excellent vegan version.  Will be posting both this weekend at 


Fed here, so I'm still in the office (for the moment). But I already have plans to bake plenty of items I can put in my freezer, plus learn to make puff pastry and slow-rise breads, if I end up having to stay home. Basically, anything that normally takes so much time I can't do it on a work day. Although I, too, am worried about the weight gain if I'm baking every day!

You know what's weird? Sometimes I think I eat *less* at home, like I'm so compulsive about work-work-work, I don't take eating breaks. Obviously will have to be better about that.

I see ham stock all the time (especially in the "international" aisle -- with Mexican ingredients). Would that be the same?

I just do them in my slow cooker. Chop onions at bedtime, throw in a little oil and salt, cook on low 10 hours overnight. Wake up to the smell of caramelized onions!

My mother always made ham-stock out of the bone left over from baked ham. Good in legume soups.

Hey folks, I have read about Enameled Dutch Ovens which are shiny/enamel inside and out, and Cast Iron Dutch Ovens which are basic black iron. However mine is colorful and shiny on the outside, black and iron-y on the inside. I assume I should be seasoning the inside, not using soap, etc. - all the things I'd do with a traditional iron skillet? Any why is my type not mentioned anywhere, including in your great October 11 article? Should I have gotten the enameled one instead?

I generally prefer an enameled Dutch oven just because it's easier to clean and see what the food is doing on the lighter-colored surface. But you can still do pretty much the same things on regular cast iron (the only exception I would say would be extended periods of time with acidic foods, such as a long-simmered tomato sauce). So, yes, keep it seasoned -- but don't be afraid to use soap, as I said in my cast iron piece!

cast iron

ARTICLE: How to season your cast-iron skillet — and keep it seasoned


We get rotisserie chicken somewhat often and I make bone broth from that + freeze it for soup. I have lots. Our "standard" fast meal is tacos. We have frozen veggies a lot because everyone eats it (even if it's totally boring).

Don't forget spices! You can use a new spice blend (bought or home-mixed) to put a different spin on an old favorite or to combine common ingredients in a new way. Different flavors can help overcome food boredom.

I know it's not healthy, and I prepare it only once a year, but it is good. Don't care if it's Irish, Jewish, whatever. Love it. Irish soda bread, not so much.

which gets a lot more exposure to warmer air as you open and shut it. This is why it's not a good idea to use those built-in butter and egg things in your fridge door.

I'm a (single) parent still caring for a young adult (who has delays) and who is and was always a very picky eater. I also work full time--so I HEAR YOU. My kid prefers high fat, high carb food, junky food, but one meal I can get into her is something I created when she was very young--"Lemon Beans." Brown some sliced garlic in olive oil, remove when brown, add a can of navy or cannelini beans and some salt and cook until juices are somewhat reduced. (I bring to a boil.) Take off the heat and add the juice of a lemon (or to taste) along with a splash of olive oil and stir to emulsify. Sometimes I'll add lemon zest too. This is a quick, healthy meal on its own, or can be added alongside a baked potato (we're vegetarian) or pasta.

This sounds really nice, thanks.

The biggest are that your recipe has oregano, sweet potato, & no meat. "Mine" used both beef broth and Kielbasa- I've replaced the beef broth with veg & add some smoked paprika& increase the cumin/coriander/garlic from the amounts in the recipe to make up for some of the smokiness. And though it calls for spinach, I usually use chard (both leaves & stems) to a bit heartier.

Lentils, and legumes in general, and soups --- they are all very generous, forgiving foodstuffs. Hard to go wrong if you even nominally know what you're doing. So, sounds good!

My pediatrician told me, "If they are eating, feed them what they want. Taste buds change, and as they eat at friends' homes, they will try other things." Take it from a mom whose children ate only white food for several years. They are healthy adults and eat mostly everything. Who knew?


I was a very picky eater too, so there's hope!

I made these and brought them in to work. They were a big hit because they're so crispy and delicate. One coworker said, "It's like eating nothing!" Even though they're pretty amazing I wonder if I could slightly decrease the butter. I had trouble keeping the butter mixed in the dough and when the cookies came out of the oven they had butter pooled on their bottoms. I took a paper towel and gently blotted them a bit.

These are so good! I don't recall seeing butter pooling when Kari made them in the lab. I wouldn't start messing with the recipe. Maybe try one more time?

Crisp Oat Caramel Cookies

ARTICLE: 8 ways, both sweet and savory, to eat more caramel

May the deities bless you for the cabbage and pork chop with mustard cream sauce recipe in recent weeks. I've made it a couple of nights in a row and it's to die for. The sauce is also excellent with chicken!

Another endorsement, thank you!

With as often as the “are they really worth it?” question has come on a Rancho Gordo beans I thought I’d share my experiment. I hosted a group of foodie friends & we did blind comparisons between basic store brand dried, Goya canned, & the Rancho Gordo on garbanzo & midnight black beans. Dried beans were soaked overnight, drained, & cooked in salted water with a bit of kombu. Canned beans were did rinsed. We also did the Royal Corona & cranberry beans but there was nothing to compare them to since they are so distinctive. Verdicts: Rancho Gordo dried cooked in about 30 min less. About ¾ of the group could tell the difference between the 2 dried versions just plain & preferred the Rancho Gordo. No one could tell the difference once they were added to a recipe. Everyone could identify the canned every step of the way & vastly preferred the dried. The cranberry beans were fine but not “wow” Disappointing. On the other hand, the Royal Corona beans were AMAZING. Everyone is ordering their own box full of nothing but those. Best Beans EVER. We also tried the popcorn. If you are used to just buying standard yellow popcorn, this has much better flavor & a much denser texture. If you are used to buying another heirloom popping corn like black diamond, you probably won’t notice much difference.

Interesting, but ... you shouldn't have soaked them. Particularly not the Rancho Gordos. No need, and they'd retain so much more flavor. 

Make the Post's fabulous cherry bounce recipe! Hopefully covid-19 will be long past by the time it's ready, but if not, add it to your quarantini.

I make pork loin roast in a bag (not just for turkey!) and save the jus in the freezer. It makes wonderful sausage and 3 bean stew (recipe from a Graul's magazine, then altered). Also use in white bean and bacon soup instead of water. Use in hoppin' John, black bean soup (Sophie Grigson recipe) to make it not vegan. I freeze it in jars different from my chicken stock to make sure I don't mix them up.

We are out of time, folks! Thanks for the great questions.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who wrote about Crescent's chilaquiles will get a copy of "The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook"! Send your mailing info to, and she'll make the arrangements when she's back next week.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

Thanks for having me at the table, Joe and new free-range Pen Pals..

In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Crescent Dragonwagon
Crescent Dragonwagon is the James Beard Award-winning author of "Passionate Vegetarian," "Bean by Bean" and "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread," as well as two novels and numerous children's books. You can find her at, where she blogs about food, creativity and grief.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
Emily Heil
Emily Heil is a staff food writer at The Post.
Recent Chats
  • Next: